FEATURE ARTICLE

Nnaemeka Luke Aneke, MDThursday, March 23, 2006
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Lukeaneke@msn.com
Westbury, NY, USA

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THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT: ITS SCOPE AND SIGNIFICANCE
(PART II of II) - A COMMENTARY ON DR. MALCOLM FABIYI’S ESSAY


n Part I of II of this article, I concentrated on a factual lay down of enough biblical information to demonstrate that the Abrahamic covenant is neither universal nor accessible through multiple pathways. This concluding Part II of II will do the said demonstration. Again, for easy reference, I will reproduce the portion of Dr. Fabiyi's essay that was the subject of this writing:


"Christians enter into the Abrahamic covenant by way of Abraham-Isaac-Jacob. It should be noted that alternate paths such as Abraham-Isaac-Esau, or the Abraham-Ishmael lineage are all possible and legally valid routes to the Abrahamic covenant. It is instructive that Islam traces its link to Abraham through the Ishmael lineage, and Christians and Jews through the Isaac lineage".

There are no alternative pathways through Ishmael, Esau, or Eleazar

As previously shown (in Part I of II), when Abraham presented Eleazar as heir, God said to him, that Eleazar cannot be the heir. (…this shall not be thine heir but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir…Genesis 15:4). Hence, if God rejected Eleazar as a heir of the covenant, then there is no way an Abraham-Eleazar pathway to the covenant can exist; otherwise the word of God will become void. Similarly, if God rejected Ishmael, as an heir to the Abrahamic covenant, (…And as for Ishmael,…I have blessed him…and will make him fruitful…But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, Genesis 17:20-21), then there is no way an Abrahamic-Ishmael pathway to the covenant can exist, as that will, accordingly, make God's word void. It is noteworthy also that in rejecting Eleazar and Ishmael as pathways (heirs) of the Abrahamic covenant, God's language was emphatic, repetitive, uncompromising, and final.

In the same vein, there can be no Abraham-Isaac-Esau pathway to the Abrahamic covenant. This is because, although the Abraham-Isaac axis is valid, God chose Jacob, not Esau, for its continuity beyond Isaac. Scripture makes it abundantly and repeatedly clear that Esau was rejected as an heir (pathway) to the covenant (Genesis 25:23-34, Romans 9:8-14, Hebrews 12:17). In fact, Romans 9:13 specifically says of Esau: (…Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated), and Hebrews 12:17 also adds that Esau was rejected as heir even though he sought it with tears.

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Seniority and consanguinity are not parameters of the covenant

It is understandable that one can argue, as Dr. Fabiyi did, that an Abraham-Ishmael, or an Abraham-Isaac-Esau pathway exists to the Abrahamic covenant. After all, Moslems, as Dr. Fabiyi mentioned in his article, believe they have a part in Abrahamic covenant through the Abraham-Ishmael axis. But one thing is having a belief and another thing is the validity of that belief. It is abundant from scripture that Ishmael, rejected by God as heir, cannot be a linkage to a partaking of the Abrahamic covenant.

Yes, Ishmael was not only a blood of Abraham, but older that Isaac in Abraham's house. A Moslem friend of mine, a respected Islamic scholar and an Imam of one of the largest Islamic congregation in New York City, has repeatedly argued to me that they are part of the Abrahamic covenant, through Ishmael, because Ishmael was not only a blood of Abraham, but the eldest of his sons. But as I am going to do here, I have repeatedly explained and emphasized to him that consanguinity and family seniority are not the bases of covenants involving God.

In many cultures and traditions, including mine (the Igbos of Nigeria), agreements as important as the Abrahamic covenant would certainly have involved the oldest male sibling in the family. But, of course, God is not bound by human traditions in doing his own thing. God respects seniority of siblings in the family, and hence commanded that the first male that opens the womb (the most senior male) in the family in Israel be dedicated to him (Exod. 13:2; Num. 3:13, 8:17; Lk. 2:23). However, when it comes to God's relationship with man, God is not bound by seniority but by his adage:-I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (Rom. 9:15).

That is why between Cain and Abel, he chose Abel, (the younger, Gen. 4:1-8); between Ishmael and Isaac, he chose Isaac, (the younger), between Esau and Jacob, he chose Jacob (the younger, Gen. 25:23-34, Rom. 9:8-14, Heb12:16-17); between Zarah and Pharez, he chose Pharez (the younger, Gen. 38: 27-30, Mt. 1:3, Lk. 3:33) between Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, he chose Ephraim (the younger Gen. 48:8-19). Also, in the house of Jesse, God chose David, the youngest, to be king over Israel and in the house of Jacob, he promoted Joseph, one of the youngest, to an unparalleled position in Egypt. Hence, the argument that the Abrahamic covenant is available through Ishmael, as heir, because he was Abraham's oldest son is contrary to scriptural facts and lacks foundation, regardless of whether a billion and plus Moslems believe so.

Notice that Abraham, being human, and thinking like any of us, had wanted seniority to be the determinant of heirship in his household; hence the offer to use Eleazer in Gen. 15:1-4 and Ishmael in Gen. 17:15-21. This would have been so if Abraham was making the covenant with another human/mortal being like himself. But because the covenant involved God, and was initiated by God, God seized the prerogative of deciding for Abraham (the other party to the covenant) which of his sons would be the heir/linage of the covenant.

Beyond seniority in the family, consanguinity is also respected by God and has its place. Hence, because Ishmael was a blood of Abraham, and because God respects consanguinity, he blessed Ishmael for Abraham's sake: (And as for Ishmael…I have blessed him…and will make him fruitful, Genesis 17:20). But covenant with God encompasses more than material blessing, and indeed involves a special relationship with God. Here in the United States, the JP Morgan Chase Bank has a business slogan: "The right relationship is everything". This indeed applies to God more than it applies to Chase Bank. For Chase Bank, the slogan is true, for the most part, when the going is good with the customer. But with God, the right relationship applies regardless on your situation, even when you are in the valley of the shadow of death. In fact, when you are in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4), that is when God brings the full power of the covenant and relationship to bear on your situation, such that as Paul said, his strength will be made perfect in your weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:

Furthermore, that the special relationship (covenant) with the God of Heaven runs through Abraham-Isaac-Jacob route only and no other pathway is consented to by God himself. Hence, countless times in scripture, God has broadcast this relationship by describing himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, (Exod. 2:24, 3:15-16, 6:3-4, Lev. 26:42). On the contrary, not once in the Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, did God describe himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Esau, or God of Abraham and Ishmael.

As a matter of fact, when God told Abraham to go to Mount Moriah and sacrifice Isaac, he described Isaac to Abraham as "thy only son, Isaac". Of course, the term "thy only son, Isaac" does not mean that Isaac was the only son of Abraham or that God does not know that Abraham had other sons from Hagar and Keturah, (Gen. 16:15, 25:1-4). It means that when it comes to God's covenant with Abraham, Isaac is indeed "thy only son". As Paul described in Galatians 3:13-16, those of us Gentiles who have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior or as Paul put it, "put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27) have become part of the covenant through Christ, the only true pathway to the God of Heaven.

There are other ways of showing that Isaac and Ishmael cannot stand on the same pedestal to compete for the heirship of the Abrahamic covenant. One good example is the plan and purpose of their lives. Both of them shared the similarity that their births were pre-announced before the events. But then, major differences exist. For Isaac, his name, and the purpose of his life as an heir of the covenant, were announced by God himself to no other than Abraham himself, (Gen. 17:19). On the contrary, the name and purpose of Ishmael's life was announced, not by God himself, but by an angel, (a messenger), to Hager, and not to Abraham, (Gen. 16:11-12). Notice that, in describing the future role of Ishmael, the angel mentioned nothing about heirship to any covenant (Gen. 16:12), whereas God specifically fore-announced Isaac's role as heir to the Abrahamic covenant before his birth, (Gen. 17:19b).

God is not a God of numbers:

There is one question that usually comes from those people who do not believe that the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob-Christ pathway is the only way to God. The question is: Do you believe that God will destroy all the billions of people on earth (other than Christians) who do not accept Christ as their Savior? And then they quickly add another question: Will such a God be, indeed, a God of love and mercy? My answer has always remained simple and the same; God is not a God of numbers! God is a God of his word. To illustrate that God is a God of his word, and not of numbers, I give them some undisputed scriptural facts:

  1. Of about three million Israelites that physically left Egypt with Moses, only two individuals, Joshua and Caleb, made it to the promised land, (Num. 14:26-33). The rest of the people that made it to the promised land were those born in the wilderness during the forty year sojourn. But of those that physically left Egypt, only two persons (named above) got to the land of Canaan, while the rest perished in the wilderness due to unbelief, stiff-neckedness and rebellion. Hence, can God save only two individuals out of three million? Absolutely!

  2. When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, he saved only a handful of people (Lot and his family) and destroyed the rest. Even Lot's wife did not make it. Hence, can God destroy two large cities and save only one man and his family? Absolutely!

  3. When God destroyed the world of Noah, he saved only Noah and a handful of people and animals in the ark and destroyed the rest. Did God indeed destroy the whole world of Noah except for Noah and a handful of people? Yes, indeed!

  4. When God delivered the city of Jericho into the hand of Joshua and the Israelites, the whole inhabitants of the city were destroyed except for the Harlot, Rahab and her household. Can God destroy a whole city and save only one household? You better believe it!

Then, I warn them that the God that carried out the above activities is still the one and same God and has not changed. Hence, he can still do the same in this generation: save a handful that have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior and destroy the rest. Whether they run into billions and trillions is immaterial to God, because God is not a God of numbers, but of his word. We can talk about religious pluralism, inter-faith cooperation and recognition of other forms of worship-all of which sound nice and acceptable. But when it comes to the valid pathway to the God of Heaven, the truth cannot be compromised.

Covenant renewals with Isaac and Jacob

Again, and more importantly, God not only chose Isaac, and then Jacob, specifically and exclusively, as consecutive lineages of continuation of the Abrahamic covenant, but he went a step further. He, God, personally renewed the covenant all over again with these individuals. In Gen. 26:1-5, he renewed the covenant with Isaac and in Gen. 28:12-16 he renewed the covenant with Jacob. There is no place in scripture or anytime in God's overall dispensations, when he made such covenant renewals with Eleazar, Ishmael and Esau.

Timing of covenants and renewals: Furthermore, something noteworthy about this covenant and its renewals is their timing. God had chosen a time of desperation and hopelessness in the lives of these men to make the covenant/renewals. He made the covenant with Abraham when Abraham was desperate for a child and hopeless that his age and the biology of his wife, Sarah, were incapable of producing a child. He renewed the covenant with Isaac in Gen. 26:1-5 when Isaac, in desperation, was fleeing to Egypt to escape a very severe famine in the land. God told Isaac to return of the famine, promised to bless him in the midst of the famine (which he did) and then renewed the covenant with him (verses 2-5). For Jacob, we know how in Genesis 27:41, Esau passed a death sentence on his brother, Jacob following the latter's supplanting of the former in his blessing. With the help of his mother, Jacob fled to Leban's house for the dual purpose of escaping Esau's wrath (primary purpose) and also finding a wife (secondary purpose). It was during this time of turmoil and desperate flight for his life that God renewed his covenant with Jacob in the wilderness of Luz. God's timing of his dealing with these individuals hold a great present-day life application for the Christian. It is God's way of saying "it is not over until I say so, not minding your situation" and "focus on my words/promises, not on your circumstances"

Conclusion:

In conclusion, in this day and age of religious inclusivity, doctrinal compromise, theological admixture, new-age religion, homosexual ordination and all manners of syncretism, it will naturally be more politically correct to say that the blessings/promises of the Abrahamic covenant is for everybody and is accessible through multiple routes. But fortunately or unfortunately, we are not in a position to change what God has ordained, for purposes of pluralism, inclusivity and political correctness. Again, God is not a God of political correctness and pluralism, but of his word, that the only pathway to the covenant is Abraham-Isaac-Jacob-Christ. Indeed, Jesus re-echoed this theme when he said in Jn.14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the father, but by me"

Concluded

Nnaemeka Luke Aneke, MD, is medical director of Balm of Gilead, New York Medical P.C., and a bible teacher at Hope Restoration Pentecostal Ministries in Queens Village, New York.